Tom Hardy consigns tired old teaching equipment to the art department cupboard as he discovers the creative potential of interactive whiteboards.
My school recently installed a number of Smartboard stations, each of which comprise a networked computer, a video and DVD player, a ceiling mounted digital projector, and a touch-sensitive screen or interactive whiteboard.
The whiteboard is essentially a very large computer screen. With a pen or a finger you can write on it, or by tapping the screen as you might click a mouse you can control your computer's programmes. I have had to fight my inner Luddite, but this is a piece of kit which has revitalised my approach to whole-class teaching, and finally consigned the dusty and invariably unreliable carousel to the cupboard, where it consorts in sad obsolescence with the epidiascope and the Roneo copier.
Freed from the struggle to extricate stuck transparencies, I now find my energies directed towards leaping and gesticulating like Peter Snow on election night. Performance has returned with a vengeance to my teaching armoury.
Although separate subject-specific programmes are available (geographic information system software, Interactive Physics, 3D modelling programmes for biology and chemistry, and so on), my starting point is usually a collection of images in PowerPoint to set the theme of a project, but then the interactive fun begins.
Using a spotlight feature revealing only the calm expression on her face, I elicited responses to the painting "Judith Beheading Holofernes", by Artemisia Gentileschi (right), and asked what Judith might have been undertaking before revealing the full horror of the Holofernes's beheading - most thought she was a nurse.
With the electronic pens, I was able to outline the almost subliminal skull delineated by the flowers in the upper right of Millais's "Ophelia"
(above); and in a presentation on Salvador Dal!'s Paranoid Critical Method, the more subtle double-takes can be quickly outlined and erased (as with the hidden bullfighter composed of receding images of the Venus de Milo in "The Hallucinogenic Toreador").
With images of artwork, you or your students can define lines of composition, demonstrate linear perspective and generally deface the artwork with impunity, either to save as work in progress for the next lesson, to email to students as an aide memoire or to erase with an electronic board rubber and start afresh with a new group.
The integration of video and DVD players means that the "slide show" can segue neatly into television or film extracts (I ended my Dal! talk with a showing of the movie Un Chien Andalou).
The resource is ideal for drawing out comment and discussion from even the most reticent of students and, as a project starter, is an excellent prompt for brain-storming.
Tom Hardy is head of art at North London Collegiate School
The following links cover a range of different aspects and genres of art and are worth exploring for their interactive possibilities:
* www.thetech.orgexhibits_ eventsonlinecolorcontents
* www.moma.org momalearningartsafariindex.html
* www.culture.gouv.frculture arcnatlascauxen
* www.etch-a-sketch.com htmlonlineetch.htm
While interactive whiteboards come with lots of useful software tools, much of what teachers already use works very well. PowerPoint is an obvious example, as it was designed to enhance presentations to audiences, however it can be used more flexibly and creatively in classrooms.
Try making a cloze exercise with a group. Work in "create" mode to select words and move them into sentences. Then run the presentation to see if it is correct. PowerPoint can also be used to make talking books. Instructions can be found at www.ace-centre.org.uk. Similarly, instead of using Word to create texts, deconstruct them. Take Shakespeare's "Seven Ages of Man" and delete everything except the different stages of life, finding the meaning of the text as you go.
Other software lends itself to being used on a whiteboard because of the simplicity of its design. While most of 2Simple's output is aimed at the primary sector, it's ease of use makes it ideal for older pupils with special educational needs. 2Count or 2Graph produce charts and graphs that respond instantly to any change in numbers. 2Investigate lets you move datasets around the screen and 2Calculate helps you get creative with maths, whether chopping images into fractions, rolling dice, timing events, measuring or making graphs.
There is also software designed to be shared. Most interactive whiteboard software has facilities for mind-mapping, but specialist programs usually have more sophisticated tools. Inspiration, from Tag Learning, will create ordered structures from them and MindGenius from Gael can be directly turned into a PowerPoint presentation. 2Simple are also launching Englishliteracy software, 2Connect, at BETT.
For PSHE and lifeskills work, Learning and Teaching Scotland produce the Lifeskills series, designed to model situations, such as going on holiday, which let students practice earning, budgeting, buying tickets and sending a postcard. It's ideal for working with groups.
One issue often raised is simply how to get the pupils to use the whole board, especially those in wheelchairs, given the height at which they sit.
With boards that don't need special pens, a finger can be replaced by a pointer, such as a drumstick. Other solutions include 2String, from 2Simple, to pull their software down the screen or buying additional hardware. Keyboards and mice, which link remotely to the interactive whiteboard (such as the Gyration Ultrasuite from RM), mean that pupils can operate the board from their seats. With the right tools and a bit of creativity whiteboards can transform what you do in the classroom.